Sturgeon pledges review over app security fears
Warning tool could be infiltrated by individuals looking to locate children
Nicola Sturgeon has pledged a “proper review” after The Courier revealed how a social networking tool was rolled out to Scottish schools despite concerns over its vulnerability to predators.
The first minister described as a “serious issue” the fact Education Scotland bosses signed off on the service despite their own impact assessment warning it could be infiltrated by individuals looking to locate children and “do them harm”.
It has emerged school teachers had been attempting to raise concerns over the platform for 18 months but the first minister said she only learned of the issue on Thursday after a worried parent emailed her directly.
Ms Sturgeon was challenged on the issue at First Ministers Questions by Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Alexander Stewart, who asked why warnings were “not listened to, who is responsible and how are we going to ensure individuals are accountable”?
Ms Sturgeon said she supported the steps Education Scotland was taking, adding: “In terms of the oversight of this and the review, Education Scotland is responsible.
“As I understand it, the levels of access to Glow and to Yammer are decided at a local authority level.
“But the site has been taken down and it’s right that action has been taken because we must act on a precautionary basis when the safety of children is concerned.”
She added: “This is a serious issue and nobody in the government or Education Scotland is trying to underplay it but it is important that a proper review takes place.”
The Yammer app allows school pupils and teachers across the country to contact and private message one another and it is understood educators had been urged to encourage use of the tool at home.
An investigation by The Courier revealed how children on the system had already been exposed to conversations about drugs and alcohol, graphic horror images and messages from an individual with paedophile in their username.
Education Secretary John Swinney said on Tuesday that individual was an older pupil posing as a paedophile, who had now been removed from the system.
Ms Sturgeon said the government had “no indication” based on the evidence it has that vulnerable children had been targeted through the app. She added: “It is critical that offensive material is reported and removed as soon as it is identified.”
Andy Burrows, an online child safety expert with the NSPCC, said it was “really concerning” that Education Scotland had delivered a service without “child safeguarding principals front and centre”.
Bosses pulled the plug on access to the service on Friday after The Courier approached them for comment.
It has not yet come back online and it is understood Education Scotland have met parents to discuss their concerns.
Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.